I was a vegetarian for 22 years when my stomach started to rebel against my spiritual decision to not eat meat. I tried every doctor, every holistic way to treat my stomach, but even the holistic doctors said, “Bo, you really have to start to eat meat.”
What do you do when everything in your mind says no and everything in your physical body says yes?
The answer is: you listen to your body. Your body is like a baby crying in the middle of the night. You listen to see if the baby needs to be fed or if she’s just fussing. But you listen. If there is something drastically wrong, you will know by the crying or by the ways the baby functions or doesn’t function.
Your body speaks to you in nonverbal ways all the time. Your shoulders and neck ache when you have looked at the computer for too long. Your lower back growls at you when you have spent the day lifting heavy things to help your friend move. You get a headache when you have too much anxiety for one person to handle.
All these are signs that the body needs your attention. It needs you to stop what you are doing to it and rest. It needs for you to attend to the needs of the physical part of you. After all, the body is the house of your mind and spirit. It is an important part of your existence here on earth. Without it, you would be dead and useless to your family, friends, and the world.
So, I listened to my body after much struggle. I decided that despite my desire to not kill animals to survive, I would pray that my mind could wrap itself around the idea of eating something that had died for my life. I became thankful for the sacrifice of the animal, and began to try small pieces of meat. It took about two months before I became comfortable with eating meat, but I did adjust. I didn’t cook it or buy it for a long time, because that felt too close to the sacrifice, but I did listen to the advice of the doctors and practitioners and eat meat.
They were right. I immediately began to feel better and more vibrant. My stomach stopped feeling terrible all the time. I was very thankful, but at the same time a little confused with God. I thought my choice to be a vegetarian was a spiritual one. Apparently, God had a different lesson for me to learn—an even harder one.
I think this lesson prepared me for the biggest lesson of my life: GETTING OLDER. We think we can gracefully make our way into our elderly years, but the truth is, aches and pains and arthritis and disease sneak in to cramp our style right around 40-50. It’s no fun. But if you’re not listening to your body, it’s even less fun.
I’ll give you the perfect example…
My yoga practice used to be very intense. Some would call it the hardest kind of yoga practice. But one day I just had to say to myself, “Bo, this just isn’t feeling good anymore. In fact, it feels pretty crappy.”
I had to completely modify the way I did my practice so that my body started to feel good after yoga. After all, isn’t that idea of yoga? A yoga practice isn’t about getting into the hardest pose. It’s about moving toward your most difficult position, and listening so you never harm yourself. If the most difficult position for you is standing there, then that is exactly what you should do. Yoga means the union of the mind, body, and spirit. There is no union there is if your body is screaming and your mind isn’t listening.
Take a lesson from this yogi and former vegetarian. I wish I could have it my way and be all the things I was when I was twenty. But the truth is, I simply can’t. I have to be who I can be within the parameters of my physical self. And if that means giving up something to survive, I should do it.
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